17 December 2011

My run of 12 five star and 2 four star reviews on Amazon US and UK was ended yesterday by a reviewer in the UK who gave me two stars and began his comments with “This is a worthy book” but followed up soon after with “I’ve read many, many business books and this was one of the worst I’ve read.” He goes on to say he found my anecdotes “dull and uninspiring” and my advice “mundane”.

Well, at least he said it was “one of the worst” and not “the worst.”

It took me back to when, fresh out of the Peace Corps, I audited a creative writing course at NYU, taught by L.J. Davis, a Brooklyn based novelist who had been compared by one critic to Mark Twain for his wild sense of humor. The class was comprised predominantly of professional trade journal writers who were frustrated novelists, whose manuscripts Davis would read aloud to the class and then invite the rest of the class’ praise or excoriation. It was several weeks before Davis got around to reading my manuscript, and I remember him saying “Aha” as I walked into the class. It was my first recognition by a professional writer and it helped sustain me through the next 30 years of disappointment until I finally got published.

Davis had his own disappointments. His first novel in 1971 had received good notices but achieved little commercial success. His next novel came out during our class, and got panned by the New York Times. I remember him walking into class the week after the review came out, looking like a condemned man facing the gallows. “She was just never going to like that kind of book,” he told us, lamenting the NYTs choice of reviewer.

L.J.’s career took a different turn after that, and he became a respected business journalist. I meant to get back in touch with him after my book came out, but in researching this blog I found his obituary: he was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment last April. He had the last laugh, though. His first novel was recently republished to rave reviews. Among his other claims to fame was the fact he once decked a drunken George W. Bush at a Washington party for hitting on his girlfriend.

I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to get back in touch.

Rupert Scofield


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